Pop Goes The News — A Montréal artist has sparked debate on social media after posting a provocative cartoon just days before Friday’s national funeral for René Angélil.
Mathilde Corbeil sketched Québec’s official symbol — a fleur de lys — to resemble male genitalia and, in French, wrote: “Anne Hébert did not have a national funeral. René Angélil yes.”
Hébert was an award-winning Québec author and poet who died in 2000.
Angélil, the husband and longtime manager of Céline Dion, died on Jan. 14 — two days short of his 74th birthday — after a battle with cancer.
The image, posted on Corbeil’s Facebook page early Tuesday, has been widely shared.
Corbeil’s inclusion of a penis in the drawing is a not-so-subtle suggestion that Angélil is getting a national funeral because he is male.
All nine of the national funerals in Québec since 1996 have been for men, including poet Gaston Miron, painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, and hockey icons Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau.
(Contrary to many media reports, Angélil is not getting a state funeral, which is reserved for sitting and former premiers. According to the provincial government, national funerals are “for personalities who have made their mark on the political, cultural or social life of Québec.”)
In addition to his show business accomplishments, Angélil supported charitable causes in his native province. He was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2009 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 2012.
While many commenters on Facebook praised Corbeil’s cartoon, others took issue with its statement.
Danielle Vézina said women should speak up when a woman worthy of a national funeral dies instead of expressing indignation when a man is honoured.
Nathalie Courchesne criticized Corbeil for not waiting until after Angélil’s funeral to post the cartoon. “Show some respect for Celine and the family of the deceased,” she wrote.
Stephane Giroux opined that the cartoon is “in poor taste.” He wrote: “I’m all for feminist statements. Except when they demonize all men for the crime of being men.
“It is very much an attack on men who probably have little control over this once they’re dead.”
Toula Drimonis disagreed. “It most certainly speaks to the recognition and visibility women are often not afforded in the public sphere,” she commented. “It’s a powerful image. It doesn’t seek to vilify men and certainly not the dead.”
“There are other ways of making the statement and I think this is not the time,” wrote Sharman Yarnell Massey.
Frederic Serre commented: “It does make its point — and what better time to make that point than now?”
Others simply believe Angélil should not be having a national funeral.
Danielle Pelletier complained the honour should be reserved for people who “have invested and paid taxes here in Québec and not the U.S.” (Angélil and Dion paid taxes on their Québec property and have several investments in the province, including Montréal’s famous Schwartz’s deli.)
Félix Soude called Angélil’s funeral “a pathetic public relations exercise by leaders who are so far away from people, but want to give the impression that they are near!”
Angélil’s funeral will be held Friday beginning at 3 p.m. at Notre-Dame Basilica, the same Old Montréal church where he married Dion in 1994, lead by Archbishop Christian Lépine.
“René was generous enough to prepare all of this since the last few months with Céline,” Dion’s longtime stylist and friend Annie Horth told People.
“He didn’t know when it would happen, but he really wanted everything to be already prepared.”
Members of the public can pay their respects on Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m. (A “celebration of life” will be hosted by Dion on Feb. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.)
Mourners expected to fill the nearly 2,800 seats in the Basilica on Friday include politicians and celebrities. The service will be broadcast live on television.
Dion and the couple’s children Réne-Charles, Nelson and Eddy will be joined by her 88-year-old mother Thérèse. Angélil’s adult children Patrick, Jean Pierre and Anne Marie (from two previous marriages) are also expected.
Dion will not sing at the funeral but at least two of her songs are expected to be featured, including “Because You Loved Me.”
Funeral services for Dion’s older brother Daniel, who died of cancer two days after Angélil, will be held next week at St-Simon-et-Jude in Charlemagne.
Dion is scheduled to return to the Las Vegas stage on Feb. 23 for 23 shows through early June. She performs 10 concerts at Montréal’s Bell Centre from July 31 to Aug. 17 followed by four concerts in Quebec City.